Freedom To Fascism

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The past and present threat of Fascism.  

We all should realize and be aware of the fact that the nations Germany and Italy were liberal democracies before the rise of fascism. Adolf Hilter used the system from inside to gain power politically with the power of propaganda. He was considered a powerful speaker, so he railed against things that he knew the people feared and perceived as threats. In return, those who followed him began to treat Hitler with almost religious adoration. After Martial law was declared in Berlin, the people all over Germany turned to "Fuhrer worship" as they were caught up in the emotions of the Nazi campaign. Next came the elections of March 5, 1933, then the Nazis began a systematic takeover of the state governments throughout Germany, ending a centuries old tradition of local political independence. Armed SA and SS thugs barged into local government offices using the state of emergency decree as a pretext to throw out legitimate office holders and replace them with Nazi Reich commissioners. On March 23, the Nazi controlled Reichstag passed the "Enabling Act." This act finally established Adolph Hitler as the total Dictator of Germany. After this, the "Gleichschaltung" (Synchronizing) began the total coordination and absorption of the entire nation under the Nazi boot.  

Adolf Hitler

Roman Fascist Symbol (left)

US House of Representatives chamber, United States Capitol (on the left and right of the podium)

Close Up

The "Fasces" was a symbol of imperial power in ancient Rome. A bundle of sticks bound together, it represented the "many bound together as one."


Fascism Anyone?

Fascism's principles are wafting in the air today, surreptitiously masquerading as something else, challenging everything we stand for.

By Laurence W. Britt

The statement that people and nations learn from history is not only overused, but also overestimated; often we fail to learn from history, or draw the wrong conclusions. Sadly, his

torical amnesia is the norm. We are two-and-a-half generations removed from the horrors of Nazi Germany, although constant reminders jog the consciousness. German and Italian fascism form the historical models that define this twisted political worldview. Although they no longer exist, this worldview and the characteristics of these models have been imitated by protofascist regimes at various times in the twentieth century. Both the original German and Italian models and the later protofascist regimes show remarkably similar characteristics. Although many scholars question any direct connection among these regimes, few can dispute their visual similarities.

Beyond the visual, even a cursory study of these fascist and protofascist regimes reveals the absolutely striking convergence of their modus operandi. This, of course, is not a revelation to the informed political observer, but it is sometimes useful in the interests of perspective to restate obvious facts and in so doing shed needed light on current circumstances.

For the purpose of this perspective, I will consider the following regimes: Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, Franco's Spain, Salazar's Portugal, Papadopoulos's Greece, Pinochet's Chile, and Suharto's Indonesia. To be sure, they constitute a mixed bag of national identities, cultures, developmental levels, and history. But they all followed the fascist or protofascist model in obtaining, expanding, and maintaining power. Further, all these regimes have been overthrown, so a more or less complete picture of their basic characteristics and abuses is possible.

Analysis of these seven regimes reveals fourteen common threads that link them in recognizable patterns of national behavior and abuse of power. These basic characteristics are more prevalent and intense in some regimes than in others, but they all share at least some level of similarity.

1. Powerful and continuing expressions of nationalism. From the prominent displays of flags and bunting to the ubiquitous lapel pins, the fervor to show patriotic nationalism, both on the part of the regime itself and of citizens caught up in its frenzy, was always obvious. Catchy slogans, pride in the military, and demands for unity were common themes in expressing this nationalism. It was usually coupled with a suspicion of things foreign that often bordered on xenophobia.

2. Disdain for the importance of human rights. The regimes themselves viewed human rights as of little value and a hindrance to realizing the objectives of the ruling elite. Through clever use of propaganda, the population was brought to accept these human rights abuses by marginalizing, even demonizing, those being targeted. When abuse was egregious, the tactic was to use secrecy, denial, and disinformation.

3. Identification of enemies/scapegoats as a unifying cause. The most significant common thread among these regimes was the use of scapegoating as a means to divert the people's attention from other problems, to shift blame forfailures, and to channel frustration in controlled directions. The methods of choice relentless propaganda and disinformation were usually effective. Often the regimes would incite spontaneous acts against the target scapegoats, usually communists, socialists, liberals, Jews, ethnic and racial minorities, traditional national enemies, members of other religions, secularists, homosexuals, and terrorists. Active opponents of these regimes were inevitably labeled as terrorists and dealt with accordingly.

4. The supremacy of the military/avid militarism. Ruling elites always identified closely with the military and the industrial infrastructure that supported it. A disproportionate share of national resources was allocated to the military, even when domestic needs were acute. The military was seen as an expression of nationalism, and was used whenever possible to assert national goals, intimidate other nations, and increase the power and prestige of the ruling elite.

5. Rampant sexism. Beyond the simple fact that the political elite and the national culture were male-dominated, these regimes inevitably viewed women as second-class citizens. They were adamantly anti-abortion and also homophobic. These attitudes were usually codified in Draconian laws that enjoyed strong support by the orthodox religion of the country, thus lending the regime cover for its abuses.

6. A controlled mass media. Under some of the regimes, the mass media were under strict direct control and could be relied upon never to stray from the party line. Other regimes exercised more subtle power to ensure media orthodoxy. Methods included the control of licensing and access to resources, economic pressure, appeals to patriotism, and implied threats. The leaders of the mass media were often politically compatible with the power elite. The result was usually success in keeping the general public unaware of the regimes excesses.

7. Obsession with national security. Inevitably, a national security apparatus was under direct control of the ruling elite. It was usually an instrument of oppression, operating in secret and beyond any constraints. Its actions were justified under the rubric of protecting national security, and questioning its activities was portrayed as unpatriotic or even treasonous.

8. Religion and ruling elite tied together. Unlike communist regimes, the fascist and protofascist regimes were never proclaimed as godless by their opponents. In fact, most of the regimes attached themselves to the predominant religion of the country and chose to portray themselves as militant defenders of that religion. The fact that the ruling elite's behavior was incompatible with the precepts of the religion was generally swept under the rug. Propaganda kept up the illusion that the ruling elites were defenders of the faith and opponents of the godless. A perception was manufactured that opposing the power elite was tantamount to an attack on religion.

9. Power of corporations protected. Although the personal life of ordinary citizens was under strict control, the ability of large corporations to operate in relative freedom was not compromised. The ruling elite saw the corporate structure as a way to not only ensure military production (in developed states), but also as an additional means of social control. Members of the economic elite were often pampered by the political elite to ensure a continued mutuality of interests, especially in the repression of have-not citizens.

10. Power of labor suppressed or eliminated. Since organized labor was seen as the one power center that could challenge the political hegemony of the ruling elite and its corporate allies, it was inevitably crushed or made powerless. The poor formed an underclass, viewed with suspicion or outright contempt. Under some regimes, being poor was considered akin to a vice.

11. Disdain and suppression of intellectuals and the arts. Intellectuals and the inherent freedom of ideas and expression associated with them were anathema to these regimes. Intellectual and academic freedom were considered subversive to national security and the patriotic ideal. Universities were tightly controlled; politically unreliable faculty harassed or eliminated. Unorthodox ideas or expressions of dissent were strongly attacked, silenced, or crushed. To these regimes, art and literature should serve the national interest or they had no right to exist.

12. Obsession with crime and punishment. Most of these regimes maintained Draconian systems of criminal justice with huge prison populations. The police were often glorified and had almost unchecked power, leading to rampant abuse. Normal and political crime were often merged into trumped-up criminal charges and sometimes used against political opponents of the regime. Fear, and hatred, of criminals or traitors was often promoted among the population as an excuse for more police power.

13. Rampant cronyism and corruption. Those in business circles and close to the power elite often used their position to enrich themselves. This corruption worked both ways; the power elite would receive financial gifts and property from the economic elite, who in turn would gain the benefit of government favoritism. Members of the power elite were in a position to obtain vast wealth from other sources as well: for example, by stealing national resources. With the national security apparatus under control and the media muzzled, this corruption was largely unconstrained and not well understood by the general population.

14. Fraudulent elections. Elections in the form of plebiscites or public opinion polls were usually bogus. When actual elections with candidates were held, they would usually be perverted by the power elite to get the desired result. Common methods included maintaining control of the election machinery, intimidating an disenfranchising opposition voters, destroying or disallowing legal votes, and, as a last resort, turning to a judiciary beholden to the power elite. 

Fascism From Wikipedia (in Italian, ''fascismo''), capitalized, refers to the right-wing authoritarian movement which ruled Italy from 1922 to 1943 under the leadership of Benito Mussolini. The word ''fascism'' (uncapitalized) has come to mean any political stance or system of government resembling Mussolini's.

The word comes from ''fascio'' (plural: ''fasci''), which may mean "bundle", as in a political or militant group or a nation, but also from the fasces (rods bundled around an axe), which were an ancient Roman symbol of the authority of lictors (magistrates). The Italian 'Fascisti' were also known as Black Shirts for their style of uniform incorporating a black shirt.

Some of the governments and parties most often considered to have been fascist include Fascist Italy under Mussolini, Nazi Germany under Adolf Hitler, Spain's Falange, Portugal's New State, Hungary's Arrow Cross Party, Japan's Imperial Way Faction, and Romania's Iron Guard.


Mussolini with Hitler


A political, cultural, and intellectual movement that flourished in twentieth century Europe. Most notably, adherents of Fascism ruled Italy from 1922 to 1945, but in fact, the word Fascism actually describes a range of extreme right-wing movements that were active in various countries throughout Europe and in other parts of the world.
Fascism developed as a result of the social changes and intellectual revolution that took place in the Western world at the turn of the twentieth century. It was a type of original, modern thought that reflected change and the need for something new and different amongst the young people of Europe, who disdained their parents' middle class values. Fascist ideas spread all over Europe and gained force during the depression of the 1920s and 1930s.
As an ideology, Fascism represents a synthesis of nationalism (devotion to one's nation as the highest ideal) and socialism (communal ownership of economic enterprises), and the rejection of materialism, liberalism, Marxism, and democracy. It calls for the absolute political rule of the leaders, and deplores the democratic ideal of the common people making important decisions. The state government is how national unity---the major Fascist value---is manifested. Fascism tries to create a new civilization, based on the total community, in which all sectors and classes of the population will find their niche. As a result, the nation will be revitalized and strengthened, and each individual will be nothing more than a cell in the communal organism. Fascism even poses as a type of spiritual revolution.
Fascism came up with two tools that would help maintain "the unity of the nation"---corporatism and totalitarianism. In a corporative state, a country's political, social, and economic power is held by a group of corporations, made up both of employers and employees. This group of corporations plans the economy and settles differences between social classes. In a totalitarian state, the government has total control over and can intervene in every aspect of an individual's life. Using these two instruments, the nation would easily be maintained as the highest ideal.
The phenomenon of Fascism evolved out of an awareness of a major societal problem: the exclusion of the working man from the community ideal. According to Fascist ideology, the nation will not become a completed unit as long as the working class is not assimilated into it, and until a way is found to harness each individual in a joint effort to achieve the common good. Fascism is also a reflection of certain values of the time: namely, emotions and spontaneity as opposed to reason---reason being the basis of democratic thought. In Fascism, the idea that emotions and the subconscious are more important in politics than reason is totally acceptable. An offshoot of this "cult of the emotions" is the Fascist philosophy of action, energy, intuition, and violence.
Although Fascism was put into power in Italy under the Fascist leader, Benito Mussolini, the movement made waves all over Europe---and was different in each country it visited. Fascism was found in France, where the first Fascist movement outside Italy was founded in 1925 and Spain, where the Fascist Francisco Franco won the Spanish Civil War and took control of the government in 1939. Nazi Germany was an extreme form of Fascism.